Samantha – I Don’t Lie

Originally posted on February 27, 2017 by Gordon Savage

As far as the principal was concerned the initials by the graffiti were incontrovertible proof that Samantha was responsible. She protested that she didn’t do it, but to no avail.

I never did find out who actually put the graffiti on the school wall, but I suspect it was Ingrid Hoffman. She had broken up with her longtime boyfriend, Dwayne Lindquist, and he had taken an interest in me. When he did and she noticed it, she stopped me in the hall.

Her face was red and her eyebrows furrowed. Her voice reminded me of a snake’s hiss. “You keep your hands off Dwayne, or you’ll be sorry, you hear?”

I admit I don’t take kindly to threats. I put my hands on my hips and stared her in the eye. “Are you threatening me? You don’t decide who Dwayne takes an interest in. He does, and he says you’re the one who broke up with him. So buzz off.”

She must have initially thought she could intimidate me. When I glared down on her, I think it scared her. She stepped back looking shocked, but she made one last attempt. “You’re going to be sorry.” She turned and stalked off, clearly fuming.

I know, circumstantial evidence, and it really didn’t matter. I was the one who got the blame for the graffiti. Dr. Ashworth was sure I was the one who did it, and he refused to even consider anyone else. He called my mother and demanded she come to his office. Then he took my phone and sat me down on the same bench I had waited on before. He handed the phone to Ms. Farrow and stomped into his office.

Mom showed up with Father thirty minutes later. While Mom checked in with Ms. Farrow, Father came over to where I sat. He stood in front of me with a scowl on his face. “Now what the hell have you done?”

I stood up, partly out of habit and partly because I felt less overawed that way. I couldn’t keep the anger out of my voice. “Someone spray painted graffiti on the front of the school and signed it with my initials. I didn’t do it.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

That made me even angrier. “I … don’t … lie! … Ever!” I glared back at him.

Ms. Farrow broke us up. “Principal Ashworth will see you now, all three of you.”

Instead of asking Mom and Father to sit down, Dr. Ashworth stood up and delivered my sentence. I was to come in on Saturday with paint remover and other appropriate cleaning material and remove the graffiti. Any further offenses on my part would be grounds for suspension.

What hurt most was that neither Mom nor Father offered any objection or defense for me. They believed I was guilty. Well, Father did anyway. That evening he notified me that my grounding would be extended another month and dismissed me.

I stood my ground. “You’re not listening to me. Why don’t you believe me when I say I didn’t do it?”

He started to walk away without saying another word.

I raised my voice. “I didn’t do it.”

He stopped and faced me. “After all the trouble you’ve gotten into lately, it’s hard to know what to believe.”

What to believe? I had long before learned better than to lie. I challenged him. “Did I lie to you about going to the mall? Did I lie to you when I pulled that stunt with the police car? I don’t lie. You taught me well.”

A strange expression flickered across his face and disappeared into his unemotional expression. For a second I thought I had hit a nerve, but he turned and walked away.

I was furious. “Don’t you walk out on me!”

He faced me again. He barked, “That’ll do! I’ll not take any more excuses from you, and don’t you ever try to order me around, young lady! Now get up to your room before I add another month to your grounding.”

The tone of his voice was absolutely frightening, and I knew I had lost my last chance to get him to listen. I ran up the stairs with blinding tears in my eyes and plopped down on my bed sobbing.

A few minutes later Mom knocked on my door. “May I come in?”

I peered up at her in the doorway. She seemed genuinely distressed. Finally, I realized I wasn’t mad at her and nodded weakly.

Stepping into my room, she closed the door and walked over to the bed. She sat down beside me and stroked my hair. “It’s not the end of the world you know.”

I was tempted to bury my face in her shoulder and just cry it out, but I resisted the urge and choked out, “It’s not the punishment. It’s the fact that you and my father don’t believe me. I’ve never lied to you, not ever. You know that.”

“Yes, I know that, dear. I’ve tried to tell that to Brian, but he won’t listen. I think you’ve hurt him the past few months and he no longer trusts you.”

I realized she might be right, but it wasn’t fair. I don’t lie.

Samantha – I Didn’t Do It

Originally posted on February 20, 2017 by Gordon Savage

Samantha had had a good scare. She had also violated her curfew and she knew she was in real trouble. Instead of chewing her out on the way home, her father let her stew. By the time they pulled into the garage, she was in tears.

I was afraid to get out of the car because I knew what was coming. Father walked around to the passenger side and, after he opened the door for Mom, he opened my door. Grim faced, he pointed at the doorway into the house. Reluctantly I released my seatbelt and followed Mom in.

Inside, Father pointed to the living room. I headed that way knowing I had better not say anything. I stopped in front of the couch and stood at attention, showing I knew what was coming – but I didn’t. He walked around me as though I was being inspected. Finally, he stopped in front of me. I stared straight ahead, which meant I was looking at his mouth.

The lines around it were hard, and his brows were furrowed. “You know how much trouble you’re in.” It wasn’t a question. “You broke curfew by a whole hour before you harassed two police officers. You drug one of your friends in with you and got her in trouble as well. What do you have to say for yourself?”

I knew that whatever I said wouldn’t absolve me. “I … have no excuse, sir. I screwed up.”

He surprised me by smiling. “I don’t know what to do with you. That prank was so funny, but you did break curfew.” He paused briefly. “Do you have any excuse for breaking curfew?”

“No sir, I just wasn’t watching my time.”

My answer seemed to satisfy him. “Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do. For blowing curfew you’re grounded for the next six weeks.” Six weeks! No way! I did a quick check of my mental calendar. That meant I’d miss the homecoming dance. I almost objected, but he continued, and was I glad he did. “However, your prank was harmless and actually kind of clever, so I’m knocking two weeks off. You’re grounded for a month.”

He must have seen my relief. “But I want to make something very clear. The legal definition of harassment requires it to be repeated. That, and the fact that this was your first run in with the police, was the reason you got off with a warning. Any new pranks on the police, and not necessarily the same kind, could legally be classified as harassment. So be careful around the police. Do you understand?”

All I could do was nod.

“Good, now get to bed. … We’ll go pick up the Mustang from impound tomorrow. Incidentally, any cost comes out of your allowance.”

––– # –––

I was so relieved I missed that last part and went right to sleep. Father knocked on my door at six in the morning. After breakfast we went straight to the impound lot and picked up the Mustang. There were no fines, but there was a towing fee. $90 took a healthy toll on my allowance.

It didn’t matter much. I was stuck in the house or at school for the next month. Unfortunately, trouble was waiting for me at school. It hit two weeks into my grounding.

“Samantha Pederson report to the principal’s office.” The announcement came over the public address while I was putting my books away for lunch. What now? I closed my locker and made my way to the school offices.

Ms. Farrow was standing at the counter when I came in. She was a heavy set woman in her late fifties. She was wearing a green sheath that did nothing to hide her bulges. Her hair was died auburn and she wore it shoulder length. Her eyes were a pale brown, and I could catch the glint of contacts in them. “The principal wants to see me?” I made it a question.

She pointed to a bench across from the counter. “Have a seat. I’ll notify Principal Ashworth you’re here.”

I sat … and waited. It was at least fifteen minutes before Dr. Ashworth came out of his office. Stern faced, bald, and overweight, he walked up to me like a charging rhino. He was wearing a dress shirt and a tie, and I could see where the shirt was soaked with sweat under his armpits. “Come with me young lady.” He headed for the door without slowing down. I had to rush to catch up.

We went out the front entrance and turned left. A few feet from the steps he pointed to the brick wall. “What’s the meaning of this?” It was a spray painted version of a quote from Winston Churchill, “Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.”

“It’s a quote from Churchill. He claimed that people avoid the truth they don’t want to believe.”

He smiled at me ravenously as if I had just swallowed the bait. “So you know this quote?”

“One of my favorites.”

His smile became even more predatory. He pointed to the end of the quote. There were three letters: “SRP.” “Aren’t those your initials, Samantha Ruth Pederson?”

I’m not slow. I just hadn’t noticed them. A chill went through me. “Now wait a minute. I didn’t write that.”

He stood with his hands on his hips and continued smiling as if he had just tricked me into confessing. “I checked. You are the only student in the school with those initials, and you just admitted it’s your favorite quote.”

“But I didn’t write that, and if I had I certainly would not have been stupid enough to end it with my own initials.”

“Who else would have a reason to put your initials there?” He turned toward the steps. “Come along. I need to talk to your parents.”

“But I didn’t do it.”

Samantha – The Prank, Part 2

Originally posted on February 13, 2017 by Gordon Savage

Samantha had never been this frightened. The police were taking them to jail and the sentence could be six months.

As soon as he started driving, the tall policeman commented to the other, “I don’t see any reason to bother a magistrate at this hour, do you? I mean we have them dead to rights.”

The other guy considered for a minute. “You’re right. It can wait till morning.”

It only took a few minutes to drive to the police station. They unstrapped us and had us get out of the cruiser. The tall guy grabbed me by the upper arm, and the other one did the same with Renee.

I was terrified but under control. Renee was crying. “Please, it was just a prank. No one was hurt.”

They removed the handcuffs. We were fingerprinted, photographed, and relieved of our purses and the stuff in our pockets. Then they sat us each down at a phone and said, “Make your call. I’d suggest to your parents.”

This was worse than the ride over. I had been terrified before, but now I had to talk to my family and tell them I was under arrest. Trembling, I dialed our number. Naturally Father answered. “Admiral Pederson.”

I broke down. My tears started flowing, and I choked up. I was so scared I forgot to call him Father. “… Daddy … Renee and I are in jail. … Please come and get us out.”

“What!” I had to jerk the phone away from my ear. He was so loud I could hear him with the phone in front of me. “You’re in jail?”

I was tongue-tied. “I … We … Uh …” I was scared to death and couldn’t get out anything meaningful.

After a few seconds Father’s voice came back, quieter, deadly calm, and strangely resigned. “Tell me where you are.”

I put my hand over the mouth piece and turned to the tall cop. “Where are we?”

“Tell him you’re across I-64 from the municipal airport.”

I did.

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Don’t do anything to get in more trouble.” He hung up.

I put the phone down, still shaking.

Renee had finished her call as well. The older policeman led us through a locked door into a long corridor. There were two cushioned benches along one wall. A woman sat on one of them. The first thing I noticed was her bright red lipstick. She was wearing a black leather mini – make that micro – skirt, a bright pink top that exposed a bare midriff, knee high black boots, and black tights. Her bored expression brightened noticeably when she saw us.

The other bench was occupied by a disheveled man who appeared to be asleep, including a loud snore, so we had no choice but to sit next to the woman if we didn’t want to stand. She slid over and patted the bench next to her. “Hi, girls. They picked you up too, huh?”

As I sat, she looked me over thoroughly. “You girls are awfully young to be doing tricks. Take my advice and get out of the business now.”

I could feel my neck getting warm. I was blushing. She thought we were hookers! That meant she probably was one herself.

“So, how’d they catch you? They got me with an undercover cop.”

I was tempted to explain why we were there, but I didn’t see any point. I put my elbows on my knees and buried my face in my hands. Then I heard the man slurring, “My, my.”

When I craned my neck to see him, he was sitting up with a dazed expression. He continued his slurred speech. “They get younger every year. Sorry, girls I’m out of cash.”

Talk about adding insult to injury.

He swayed to his feet, and mumbled, “Where’s the restroom around here?” He turned and staggered down the hall away from us. When he reached the end of the hall, he opened a barred door and disappeared from sight. It took me a second to realize he had gone into a holding cell. In a moment I heard a zipper and then liquid flowing into a toilet. For some reason I was embarrassed for him.

He wobbled back and dropped onto his bench. “So we’re in jail? It’s better than lying in the street.” His speech was still slurred. He lay back down on the bench, and seconds later he was snoring again.

“Well, that was interesting,” the woman said. “You meet all kinds of characters in lock-up. If you have to keep doing johns, at least be careful.” She pointed to a scar on her left cheek. “I got this from a john who was arrested with me. He knocked me down while they were separating all of us into boy/girl cells. Of course, I have to be thankful he did it. The cops cleaned me up and let me go because of it.”

It seemed like hours later the locked door opened. The cop stood there and called, “Renee Williams, your parents are here. You’re going home.”

She jumped up and started for the door. Then she stopped and gave me an anguished smile. She mouthed, “Sorry, Sam,” and rushed to the door.

Great! Where were my parents?

The woman gave me a wide-eyed stare and said, “Parents? You’re not one of us?” She smiled. “Believe me, you don’t want to get into the business.”

We waited in silence for what felt like an hour. When the door finally opened, I jumped to my feet. The cop stayed there for seconds before he spoke. “Samantha Pederson. It’s your turn.”

I looked at the woman. “Good luck.” It was all I could think of to say. I headed for the door.

Father was there. He looked unemotional as I came out. I was so relieved that I ran to him and hugged him, forgetting how I wanted to punish him. “You are exceedingly lucky,” he said. “They won’t charge you … this time … but let it happen again … Honey, what were you thinking?”

“It was just a prank.” I stepped back. “Can I go home now?” Then I saw Mom waiting on the other side of the room.

He continued to watch me impassively. “You understand how much trouble you’re in at home? We’ll discuss your punishment on the way home. Now let’s get your stuff.”

Samantha – The Prank, Part 1

Originally posted on February 6, 2017 by Gordon Savage

I’m skipping the next few weeks. Samantha found out that being grounded was harder than she expected, but she gritted her teeth and didn’t complain – mainly to keep from upsetting her mother any more. As expected Bill found someone else to go to the movie with, although it wasn’t Lynda. She had moved on.

Samantha waited a whole two additional weeks before getting into trouble again. She managed to talk her mother into letting her take the Mustang convertible to a birthday party that was supposed to be over by 9:00 pm. She and Renee left shortly after ten, making her late for a curfew she had earned with her overstayed mall visit.

“Was that a great party or what?”

Renee was so exuberant that I couldn’t help but smile. I glanced at her. She had removed the scrunchie from her ponytail and her hair was swirling in the warm wind flowing over and around the windshield. As I came to a stop at the four way, I glanced past her and noticed a police car parked by the curb of the cross street. Its lights were off and for some reason the street lamps were off on that side of the road. I would have never noticed it if I hadn’t been looking right at it. I knew I had come to a complete stop. No problem. Then I thought, Hey, those guys are being sneaky. I’m going to teach them a lesson.

I drove on and turned right at the next intersection, being very careful to signal.

“What are you doing? Is something wrong with the car?” Renee went from giddy to serious in a flash.

“Did you notice those cops back there? They were hiding in the dark so anyone who didn’t stop wouldn’t see them.”

“So what’s another traffic trap?”

“I’m going to have some fun with them. Are you in?”

“What kind of fun?” She looked puzzled as I pulled up at the next corner. There wasn’t a stop sign, but I wasn’t taking chances.

“You’ll see.” I shut off the car’s lights—the mustang didn’t have running lights when I cut the switch off—and turned onto the cross street. When we turned onto the next street, I hugged the curb and eased forward until I was almost on their bumper. I stopped and simultaneously hit the horn and the passing lights.

I turned the lights back on and pulled out into the driving lane. We smiled and waved enthusiastically as we passed the cruiser. Being careful to stop completely at the intersection and signal, I made the turn onto the street we had been on. I had just started the turn when the police car’s bar lit up and the siren chirped.

Renee glanced over her shoulder. “Oh, boy. You’ve done it now.”

I pulled over to the curb. I fished my brand new license out of my wallet and had Renee pull the registration and insurance card from the glove box. In the side mirror I could see the driver of the police car get out. Tall and thin, he was kind of cute in his police uniform. Then I saw he had drawn his weapon. I turned my head so I could see the other officer. He was short and a little overweight. He stopped at the rear of the car with his pistol drawn. Both he and the cute guy had the angriest expressions I had ever seen. If it wasn’t for the guns, I would have laughed.

I smiled brightly at the tall guy as he walked up. “Hi, officer. Beautiful evening isn’t it.” I nodded at his gun. “Surely firearms aren’t necessary, are they?”

He didn’t smile, and his voice was stern. “Out of the car, now. Both of you.” He stepped back, still holding the gun at the ready.

My heart had started beating rapidly, and I could feel beads of sweat forming on my forehead. This wasn’t going like I had expected. Actually, I had expected to drive away and have a good laugh on the way home.

As soon as I closed the door, I asked, “Can you put that thing away? You’re making me nervous.”

“Turn around.”

I did.

“Now put your hands behind your back.”

I did, and he started putting handcuffs on me. I saw that the other officer was doing the identical thing with Renee. Her expression was pure terror, and I was beginning to feel the same way. “What’s going on? It was a harmless prank.”

“Harassing a police officer is a felony in this state.”

My stomach did a flip-flop, and I began to feel nauseated.

“It carries a mandatory six month sentence.”

Now I really felt sick.

He continued, “Where’s your license and registration?”

My voice trembled. “They’re on the driver’s seat. What are you going to do with us?”

He picked up the papers. “We’re going to take you into the station and book you.”

“For blowing the horn and flashing the lights?”

He picked up my purse and pulled the keys out of the ignition, and the other officer picked up Renee’s purse. “Let’s go.” He pushed me toward the police car, none too gently.

“Hey, you can’t leave the car with the top down.” I faced skyward. “It looks like it’s going to rain.”

“The tow truck driver will take care of it.”

The drive to the station was no picnic. They put us in seat belts but left our hands chained together behind our backs. I tried to make peace on the way in. “We’re sorry. It was just a joke.” Neither of them paid attention.

Samantha – Grounded

Posted on January 30, 2017 by Gordon Savage

Samantha was ready to face her punishment. She figured that the tougher it was the more motivated she’d be to make sure she hurt her father. As expected, she was grounded, but it was a first time offense. She knew she had more work to do. She didn’t realize how tough it was going to be.

“Mind if I join you?” It was Bill. My heart thudded. It was Monday after my first weekend being grounded. The lunchroom wasn’t crowded so it wasn’t as if he had to sit with me.

“Be my guest.” I struggled not to appear overly pleased.

He put down his tray and slid onto the bench beside me. “So what is your punishment?”

“Not as bad as I expected. I’m grounded through next weekend, and I’m not allowed to drive while I’m grounded.” I had gotten my license on my birthday.

“So you still can’t break loose for a movie?”

It felt like a prompt. What was he suggesting, that I go over the wall? I admit I really wanted to, but our house wasn’t exactly easy to sneak out of or back into, for that matter. All I could say was, “I wish.”

I hung my head. “If I keep my nose clean, I can get out the next weekend.”

“I guess I’ll have to ask Lynda.” That was mean. Lynda was his regular girlfriend. I was hoping to take her place, and he had seemed interested. I tried not to show my hurt.

Okay, I knew he was trying to manipulate me, but I wanted to go out with him. Would this make him lose interest in me?

I started trying to think of ways I might get time off. I could tell Mom that Bill had asked me out, but that wouldn’t work. She’d just remind me that grounding was punishment, and maybe I’d think of this the next time I felt like expressing myself like I had. Or I could be the model of good behavior, but that would make Father happy. The punishment had worked, after all. The whole idea was to make him pay.

I tried to move the conversation the other way. “I bet your football practice takes up a lot of your time.”

“Yeah. We have a strong team this year. We should go all the way to state. In fact, our first game is this Friday.” He paused. “You won’t be able to watch, will you?”

“No, but I’ll be rooting for you.” Even football came back to me being grounded. “Maybe I can get a pass to watch practice.”

For a moment he stared off in the distance. What was he thinking? She can’t take time out to see a movie, but she wants to come to football practice? Have I turned on a stalker?

I shook my head to clear it. Get real, Samantha. He’s one of the most popular boys in school. He can have any girl he wants. He’s probably wondering if I’m worth the trouble. That did nothing to boost my self-confidence.

At least he didn’t get up and leave. We talked until he finished lunch. Then Randy McCall walked up. He glanced at me and then said to Bill, “New girlfriend, Don Juan?”

“Just a new friend.”

That hurt. I kept my mouth shut.

Bill slid off the bench and stood. He nodded to me. “Time for me to head for the gym. Later.”

As they walked away, I had the feeling I blew it.

Samantha – Mall Walking – Part 2

Originally posted on January 23, 2017 by Gordon Savage

Samantha admitted to me that she had a crush on Bill, but because his dad was a Chief Petty Officer and her father was a Rear Admiral, Bill normally shied away from her. Things appeared to be changing at the mall.

––– # –––

Bill was a hunk. At six two he was actually taller than me, which I considered a plus. Dark brown hair and green eyes and a gorgeous tan just made him more handsome. He was the star quarterback for our football team. I wondered if going out for the cheerleader squad would make me more interesting to him, but I knew that wouldn’t really do anything for me. I suspected he felt that because father was a rear admiral and his dad was a chief petty officer I was out his class … ridiculous! He glanced up from his game and saw me. “Hi, Red. How long have you been standing there?”

Long enough to get a good look. I couldn’t say that. “A couple of minutes. You play well.”

“Just killing time.” His eyes were fixed on the screen. He took out a pair of zombies while he was talking. Suddenly the game was over. He turned to face me. “You want to join in? It’s a two person game, and Matt didn’t want to play Lisa anymore.”

“Sure.”

He loaded the game up and we started playing. The game wasn’t that exciting, but being with Bill kept me fascinated until Renee tapped me on the shoulder. “They’re shutting down, and we need to get home.”

Bill hung up his “shotgun” and nodded to Renee. “Yeah, it is late.”

My heart thudded. Oh my God! It really is late. Father will kill me. I stuck my gun in the holster.

We headed for the main doors, the rest of the gang with us. Rosemary looked like I felt. She panicked. “My folks will ground me for a month.” she moaned. “We’ve got to come up with a good excuse.”

Just like that I got over my scare. I had something that would make father mad if not sorry. I didn’t have an excuse, and if I was unapologetic, it would really get under his skin. I’d show him. “Sorry, Rosemary, don’t include me in your excuse.”

Renee and Rosemary hashed out an excuse for Rosemary as we rode home while I sat beside Bill in silence. Yes, his crew cab had a bench seat up front.

We dropped Rosemary off first, then Matt. I was third. “Thanks for the ride, Bill.” I didn’t have any experience with flirting, so I was going to leave it at that even though I was dying to say something inviting.

“Any chance we could see a movie together next weekend?” Bill asked.

I smiled at him. “I’d like that, but it will depend on how much trouble I got into tonight.”

He laughed. “You don’t seem too concerned.”

“I’m not, but I suspect I’m going to be grounded for a while.”

“Well, maybe a raincheck.”

“Sounds good to me. Thanks again.”

I climbed out of the truck and headed up the walk. Mom opened the door. “Samantha, where have you been? We’ve been worried sick about you.”

I stepped past her into the foyer. Father stood there with a scowl on his face that would have peeled the wallpaper of the walls. I almost lost my resolve to be unrepentant. “We went to the mall, and I lost track of the time.” True.

Father, as usual and despite his expression, spoke dispassionately. “Why didn’t you at least call to let us know where you were?”

“Didn’t think of it.” Also true.

He glared at me. I was getting through to him, but he spoke in controlled tones. “We were getting ready to call the Security Force and report you UA.”

“I’m not in the navy.”

I could see his self-control eroding. “See here. You frightened your mother half out of her mind.”—I hadn’t really thought about that. I almost said I was sorry.—”I had to leave an important meeting to be with her.”

There it was. This was working out better than I thought. I knew the next statement was going to seal my fate, but I had to say it. “You should thank me. Meetings are boring.”

Father’s face turned a shade of red I hadn’t seen before. For a second he seemed to be choking on his words. Finally, he spoke very slowly and distinctly. I could see he was fighting to keep from blowing up. “Go to your room. Your mother and I are going to discuss what to do about this incident.”

I didn’t sleep well that night, and I didn’t find out my sentence until the next morning.

––– # –––

Samantha – Mall Walking – Part 1

Originally posted on January 16, 2017 by Gordon Savage

Fast forward to Friday on the first week of school. Samantha had been in a funk since her brother’s death. The only time she wasn’t sulking was when she was running, and she did a lot of that. Now school had started, and she brought her blues to class. Here’s what she had to say about what happened that day.

––– # –––

I was standing in front of my locker not really thinking, just feeling sad and angry. I still hadn’t come up with a way to make father pay for what he had done. I didn’t even notice Renee when she walked up.

“Earth to Samantha.”

It took me a second to realize she was talking to me. “Huh?”

She stood there tapping her foot. She was dressed for the warm weather, a sleeveless white blouse and a really short blue skirt. Her brown hair was drawn back into a ponytail. It exposed opal earrings. She always seemed to dress well. “What’s with you, Sam? You’ve been moping ever since we got back to school. Hey, this is the big one. We’re seniors. You should be celebrating.”

“I don’t feel like celebrating.”

She gave me a sharp look. “What do you mean?”

I remembered she had been out of state when Brian died. This was really the first time I had talked to her since she had returned. The memory still hurt too much to talk about. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Well, we need to cheer you up. A bunch of us are going to the mall. Come with us.”

“I can’t. I need to get home and go for a run.”

She gave me another sharp look. “You’re kidding, right?” She put her hands on her hips. “You certainly can afford a break. You need a break. … And you need cheering up. No excuses, you’re coming with us.”

This wasn’t on my planned activities for the day. I was planning on going for a run and then moping around the house. The mall did sound like more fun than pouting. Of course, I was expected to come home right after school. I had a cell phone. I could call home, but why should I? No one would care.

Hesitantly I said, “Well, maybe …”

She shut my locker and grabbed my hand. She headed for the exit, pulling me with her. “‘Maybe’ nothing. You’re coming with me. Bill Compton is driving, and he and the rest are waiting for us outside.”

I felt a twinge of fear. I should go home. But with Renee pulling me, I found it easy to follow her, and the fear began turning to excitement.

When we got to the mall, the boys headed for the arcade. I felt like I should go with them, but Renee had other ideas. She and Rosemary Velasquez dragged me to the nearest dress shop. We stared at the mannequins for a moment. Then Rosemary said, “Let’s go in.”

Renee and I looked at each other. I shrugged, and she said, “Why not?” The three of us headed for the door.

We spent the next fifteen minutes working our way through the racks taking the hangers off and holding the dresses, blouses, skirts, slacks …in front of us to see how they would look. I fell in love with a beautiful light blue chiffon gown. The prom was months away, but I had to try it on.

When I came out of the dressing room both Renee and Rosemary oohed and aahed. I twirled in front of the mirrors. No question, it was perfect for me. I said so.

“What’s it cost?” Renee looked at the price tag. “Four hundred dollars? Is that in your budget?”

Crestfallen, I changed back into my school clothes. When I came out of the changing room, a stern looking matron with a name badge that said store manager on it was waiting for me. “Girls, if you’re just going to look, I suggest going to Penney’s or Sears.”

I handed her the dress, and we ran out of the store, giggling. I could feel her icy stare on me until we were out of sight.

We bought cinnamon rolls and window shopped for a while. Finally we wandered into the arcade to see what the boys were doing.

Bill was playing G in a “House of the Dead” game. He was shooting zombies.

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More to come

Samantha – The Funeral

Originally posted on January 9, 2017 by Gordon Savage

Here’s the second installment of Samantha Pederson’s life as she relayed it to me. Is a funeral time for vitriol?

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I heard mom outside my door. “Leave her alone. We can get her up later. She’s still grieving.”

“We’re all grieving. She has responsibilities like the rest of us.”

“Honey, it’s not that easy. I had to force myself to get up this morning. It’s obviously hit her harder than the rest of us.”

“If you can force yourself…”

“It doesn’t work like that. Let her grieve. She’ll get over it.”

They were still talking as they walked away from the door.

I was groggy from a fitful night’s sleep, but once again my thoughts turned to father and how he had responded to Brian’s death. He still hadn’t so much as shed a tear. He had made arrangements for the funeral in a cold, businesslike manner. Even before the body had arrived at Dover Air Force Base, he had set a date and time at a VA site about an hour away. He was superman with two stars on each shoulder to prove it.

Raging inside that he had caused this and wasn’t showing any remorse, I buried my face in my pillow and sobbed, but no tears came. I was so upset with him it was overcoming my sorrow. I wanted to hurt him, but how? He wouldn’t show it if I did. Well, I was going to make him sorry anyway.

Then I remembered, today was the funeral. I climbed out of bed, threw on my robe, and slouched downstairs.

“Honey, you’re up. Are you hungry?” Mom smiled, but I could tell it was forced. “You need to eat and get dressed. We’re leaving in an hour.”

After a breakfast that I picked at, I went upstairs and opened my closet. There it was, the black dress I was supposed to wear. For a moment I considered the bright sundress next to it. I could wear it to upset father, but it would hurt mom too.

I took a leisurely shower and dressed, knowing that everyone else was ready to go. When I reached the front door, the rest of the family was waiting. Father glanced at his watch then at me. For a split second longer than needed he held the glance, telling me without words that he was displeased. “We’re late. Let’s get a move on.”

An overcast sky threatened rain, not a shower but a steady drizzle. It made the trip to the cemetery even gloomier. As we drove, Mom and father talked about who would be doing what at the ceremony. I managed to ask if I could say a few words. “Certainly,” mom said before father could disagree.

By the time we arrived, rain was falling, light and steady from the low, gray clouds. The cemetery people had set a tent over the grave, but by the time the ceremony started there were so many mourners some still had to stand in the wet. I looked over the crowd as they straggled in. Most of them made an effort to come up to mom and father and offer sympathies. A lot of them were father’s associates and their families. Others were Brian’s friends from school. Some had come from as far away as Oregon. Martin Cunningham was attending the University of Oregon in Eugene. He stood at the back in the rain.

The protestant chaplain from the base stepped up to a microphone on the other side of the grave. He took a moment to look at the casket. It was closed because they had only recovered pieces of Brian. Mom had insisted on seeing it. She looked horrified at what she saw, and father had to help her walk away. I had to look, if for nothing else than to fuel my anger.

The chaplain started the ceremony with a prayer and then talked about Brian as if he knew him (he didn’t), calling him a devoted son (he was) and a hero (he was). I guess it wasn’t important that he was a reluctant hero. After another prayer and a hymn, the chaplain called father to the mic.

“Brian was a brave young man who wanted nothing more than to serve his country.” I gritted my teeth as I listened to father praise him. He deserved praise but not the bull father was putting out.

When father was through, he asked the mourners to say a few words. As one by one people came forward to deliver their tributes, father continued to ignore my raised hand. Finally there was no one else. He looked at me and then asked mom if she had anything to add. She stood up with her eyes blank and her mouth open. After a few seconds she managed, “I … only … know that his death took away a gallant young man, and … I already miss him … terribly.” Tears streamed down her face as sat down unsteadily beside me.

Father turned toward the chaplain as if to invite him back to the microphone, but I got to my feet. “Father,” perhaps a little louder than needed.

I saw what I’m sure was a glint of anger, but he said, “Of course, Samantha has something to say. Come on up, dear.”

I stepped up to the microphone, my heart racing. What was I going to say? Brian didn’t deserve this. He shouldn’t be dead. He was a talented musician. People should be listening to his music now. Then I remembered the video. I pulled out my phone and switched it back on. I moved the mic into position. “You’ll have to excuse me for a moment while my phone starts up.” My face got a little redder as I waited. The delay seemed interminable, and my face got even redder. Finally, I was able to to login, and in another few seconds I had a song playing.

I held the phone near the mic, close enough that I could hear it from the speakers. “This is Brian playing ‘Glory Road,’ a song he wrote himself. This is what he was all about, connecting with people through his music. He didn’t belong in the marines. He didn’t belong in Afghanistan, but even there he was connecting. He died delivering medical supplies to remote villages. It shouldn’t have happened.”

I hesitated a moment to work up the courage to say what came next. “He was there because my father insisted that Brian had to serve before he could ‘play.’ His music wasn’t ‘play.’ It was his calling, but father insisted.” I looked at father. “It’s his fault that Brian is dead.”

Mom jumped up from her seat. “Samantha!” She rushed around the open grave and pulled me away from the microphone. The phone I was holding slipped out of my hand and clattered into the grave. Father stood in stunned silence as did the rest of the mourners.

As soon as we were away from the mic, mom grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. “How could you? It’s bad enough that Brian is dead. Now this?” She forced me into my chair, her face twisted as if she were in pain.

“I’m sorry, mom. I had to get it out of my system … because it’s true.”

While mom was dragging me to my chair, father had gone to the microphone. “So I’m the cause of my son’s death? I learned at the Naval Academy to take responsibility for my own actions. And, yes, I did insist that Brian should serve. Was that a mistake? It pains me to say it, but no, it was not. I miss my son, and I’m sorry he is dead, but I’m proud of him for doing the right thing.”

He admitted it was his fault, and he was proud of it. At least, that’s what I heard.

Samantha – A Death in the Family

Originally posted on January 2, 2017 by Gordon Savage

When I started working on Antimatter, the follow-on to Teleportal, I realized that since Samantha was going to be the principle character, I needed to know more about her. As I explored her past, I came to realize she was much more complicated than I originally envisioned, so I had her describe some of the key incidents that shaped her life. Below is where she started.

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I’ll never forget that day. It was the week before my sixteenth birthday. I had just gotten home from my afternoon run, and the hot summer sun had already cooked up cumulus clouds that were turning into thunderstorms. I jogged up the front steps of our on-base quarters at Norfolk Naval Station. I raced through the door and shut it as fast as I could to keep the hot air out. “Mom, I’m home.”

My mom, Margaret, came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dish towel. A tall redhead, she was wearing a bright red and green sundress for her weekly trip to the commissary. She had a way of appearing beautiful for the simplest of things. She looked me up and down. “You’re really serious about this marathon, aren’t you?”

Before I could answer we both saw movement in front of the house. My father, Rear Admiral Brian Pederson was coming up the front steps followed by two marines in dress uniform. Mom met him at the door. Her pleased expression turned to anxiety when she saw the other men. “Brian, what happened?”

He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her. He held her for a long time. A chill went through me. What was going on?

My little brother, Nelson, ran in from the living room. He was a late addition to the family, eleven years younger than I. “Daddy. Daddy, why are you home so early?” he chattered.

Father reached down rumpled Nelson’s blond hair. “Stand down, sailor. I have to talk to your mother first.” He didn’t smile when he said it. That didn’t make me feel any better.

I glanced at the two marines standing just inside the door, looking uncomfortable. I saw that one of them was a chaplain. Why marines and why a chaplain? The chill turned to dread as I realized what had upset mom. The military sent a chaplain to notify the family when a member died on active duty. And my brother, Brian, Jr., was in the Marine Corps. “Is Brian d …” I started, but father gave me a look that froze me.

“But…” I started again. I had to know.

“Not with your brother around,” he said quietly. He must have known what I had realized, that Brian had been killed. He had only been deployed for three months.

I couldn’t hold back. Tears filled my eyes, and I ran up the stairs toward my room.

“Why is Samantha crying?” I heard Nelson ask as I slammed my door and threw myself on the bed, sobbing.

Several minutes later mom came into my room. Her eyes were wet, and she was sniffling. She held me while we both cried. She whispered to me between her own sobs, “He was on a humanitarian mission, when someone set off an IED.” She had to stop for a second and clear her throat before she continued, “There was so little … left … of his … body.” She stopped and buried her face in my shoulder. Then she left the room, still crying.

I wept for the better part of a half hour. My pillow was soaked and my throat was sore when the tears finally stopped. Brian—my big brother—was dead. I loved him more than anyone, and he was dead. I understood what had happened, but that didn’t matter. My sorrow began to turn to anger as I thought about it.

Brian had wanted to be a musician. He played a terrific guitar, and he had a great voice, one of the best around. Memories of him playing with his band flooded my head. He could have been a professional. But father had been adamant. Brian had to serve his country first. Then he could do whatever he wanted. I remember watching him slouch away, head hung down after that ultimatum. He didn’t like it, but in our house father’s word was law. Only mom could stand up to him, and this time father had overruled her. The day after graduation Brian went to the recruiting office and signed up for the marines. He told me before he shipped out for basic training that he almost signed up for the army just to pull father’s chain. Almost, but at the last minute he chickened out. He couldn’t defy father that way.

The more I thought about that the angrier I got. It was father’s fault. Brian was dead because of him. My anger festered throughout the rest of the afternoon and into dinner. We were all sitting around the table as if nothing had happened, except that everyone picked at their food in silence. Mom’s eyes were red from crying. Nelson kept looking at everyone. His face showed that he clearly didn’t understand what was going on. Hesitantly he asked, “What happened to Brian, and why is everybody so sad?”

Mom tried to answer, “Your brother had an accident, and now he’s … now …” She stopped, choking back tears.

Father picked up the explanation. “Nelson, Brian was helping some people in Afghanistan. He was delivering medical supplies, when a bomb went off …”

Finally I exploded. Tears filling my eyes, I stood up and flung my napkin down on the table. “For God’s sake! Tell him what happened… Brian is dead! A bomb blew him to little pieces. He’s dead, and we’ll never see him again.”

For a moment father sat in stunned silence. I looked directly at him, still raging. “And it’s your fault! You made him join the marines.” I stormed out of the room before he could say anything else.

A few minutes later I heard a knock on my door. It was father. “Samantha, let’s talk.”

“Go away.” I flopped over face down on the bed and put the pillow over my head.

The door opened, and I could hear father despite the pillow. “Honey … I’m as upset as you are. Can’t we talk?”

I turned my head and peered out from under the pillow. “I don’t want to talk. Just go away.”

I don’t know why, but he backed out of the room and closed the door. I had never seen that expression on his face before.

What is a Teleportal?

The concept of teleportals has been around since the beginning of science fiction. They come in all shapes and sizes. A teleportal is not like the transporter of Star Trek fame. It doesn’t disassemble the object going through it and then reassemble it somewhere else. It’s a zero distance interface that connects two separated locations. The ones in Teleportal have some interesting properties. Here’s a look at some of them.

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This image shows the basic concept. The portal in the dining room on the left is connected to the portal at Lake George. Notice anything peculiar? They appear to be oriented in the same direction. A person going in the visible side of the portal at Lake George would step through into the table side of the one in the dining room and vice versa. If either one of the portals were rotated, the view through the other would change along with the exit direction.

Another peculiarity to consider is air pressure. The portals would almost certainly have an air pressure differential. Without an enclosure around at least one of the portals the differential would result in a breeze to hurricane force wind, or worse. Imagine trying to get back to earth from outside a space station.

Which brings up another concern, gravity. A person in the International Space Station would be attracted toward a portal connected to one on earth. Maybe it would be practical to embed portals under the flooring of a space station as a way of providing localized gravity.

One issue is connected to conservation of momentum. Since everything is moving through space in some direction and speed, what happens when an object passes through an interface that is moving in a different direction and speed? And that could apply to two portals on earth. What is the difference in momentum between Anchorage and Rio? I’ll leave the solution of that problem to the persons who assemble the first practical teleportals.

Finally, the team in Teleportal was able to filter the interface so that only photons of a specified frequency range and power density could pass through, giving them the capability of opening the portal in visual-only mode. Perhaps there-in lies the solution to some of the problems inherent in such a device. Something to think about, isn’t it?